The Trope of Border-Crossing Journeys


(post)colonial identity
ethical transformation

How to Cite

Abdaoui, Kamel. 2018. “The Trope of Border-Crossing Journeys: Ethics of Hybrid Encounters in J. M. Coetzee’s "Waiting for the Barbarians" And "Age of Iron"”. Brolly 1 (3):7-26.


The present paper examines the spatial and metaphorical representation of border-crossing experience and its ethical significance in (re)shaping the hybrid subjectivity in J. M. Coetzee's Waiting for the Barbarians and Age of Iron. Along with their encounters with the racially and culturally different Other(s), many Coetzeean protagonists undergo an identity crisis that leads them “to be rid of old self” (Coetzee 2002, 111). These characters respectively undertake perilous journeys to the other’s territories for the sake of not simply escaping what they deem as dysfunctional and autochthonous forms of identity but above all-embracing a hybrid identity capable of offering an enabling space of belonging. In Waiting for the Barbarians, the Magistrate encounters a captive barbarian girl, and probably out of human compassion, he takes it upon himself to return her to her tribe across the border. After the trip, he faces disgrace and imprisonment as he openly expresses his disavowal of the colonial discourse of the Empire which denigrates and dehumanizes the so-called barbarians. In Age of Iron, Mrs Curren endures a series of violent incidents that compels her to leave the safe white suburbs and venture into Guguletu, a squatter camp for blacks, in Cape Town. Witnessing the violent and almost inhuman conditions in which the majority of black people are doomed to live, she renounces the dominant discourse of apartheid propagated by the state-monitored mass media.